On Tuesday, May 2nd, EU40 – the Network of Young MEPs, and MEP Alexander Bernhuber, hosted an event titled: “The future of agriculture: Moving towards a sustainable pesticides policy?“. The discussion focused on providing different perspectives concerning the use of Pesticides, one of the most discussed and controversial topics of the past decade. While necessary for the proper growth of food, the request for more sustainable and less harmful products has been a priority for lawmakers and citizens.
In June 2022, the Commission published its proposal to revise the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive, which would enshrine into law the flagship Farm to Fork targets on pesticides. The Parliament and Council have been grappling with serious questions over how these targets are to be implemented, and how European farmers will be able to reduce the use and risk of pesticides by 50% without impacting their livelihoods. What will the impact of this legislation be?
Given the relevance of the topic, and the need to discuss the feasible options available for farmers, the event took place in the European Parliament, where different stakeholders: policymakers, industry representatives and interest groups representatives joined the conversation.
Guest panellists included: MEP Alexander Bernhuber, Ms Joanna Stawowy from the European Commission, Mr Peter Maes from Koppert, Dr Dario Piselli from EEA, Ms Paula de Vera from Copa-Cogeca and Natalija Svrtan from Pesticide Action Network Europe. The event was moderated by Regine Roncucci from EBCD.
After the initial remarks from Roncucci, MEP Bernhuber introduced the subject at the core of the discussion. Our MEP provided an overview of the institutional decisions that led to the Commission’s proposal to revise the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive in June 2022. Bernhuber highlighted the importance of hearing from young people and young farmers on such a crucial topic as agriculture and the use of modern techniques to ensure food security. “Young farmers are aware and educated concerning the use of Plant Protection Products, we achieved good steps forward but I see many young farmers worried about what is coming up in the legislation, not only the need to implement the new Common Agricultural Policy, but they are concerned about things like the National restoration plan, and I don’t see the legislation going hand in hand with them.”
Joanna Stawowy brought up the Commission’s perspective. She stated how the agricultural sector is diverse and broad and the importance of creating a more comprehensive enabling environment to ensure competitiveness among farmers, also outside Europe. Stawowy continued: “We need to reinsure farmers that the legislation will not be used against them because it is not at farm level. If we want to have an evidence-based policy, we need data and information from farmers.”
Peter Maes shared his vision on how to create sustainable and safe agriculture in Europe and how private companies such as Koppert can assist in the transition to green and safe agricultural practices. He said a sharable goal consists in establishing more efficient authorization processes to make alternative plant protection products available to the market. “Alternatives already exist but much more needs to be done. All over the world, farmers are using biological pesticides. Europe did a tremendous job but biologicals need to be way more available to farmers.”
Dario Piselli, from the European Environment Agency, provided a brief summary of the EEA’s briefing on the pesticides, focusing, in particular, on the consequences of their use on food security. He claimed: “We have seen that the sale of pesticides has remained stable. Some have been banned and some alternatives have been found. We have to reflect on the food security aspect. We have difficulties in modelling them, but in the long term, it affects pollination, soil quality and water consumption.”
Paula de Vera Garcia shared the opinions previously expressed by Maes, adding how: “We are missing enough alternatives on the market. We need to be sustainable and to advance. But for that, we need alternatives, funding, adjusting periods, competitiveness and at the same time have high-quality production.”
Natalija Svrtan shared her position as a PAN Europe representative: “The argument of food security has been used since the start of the pandemic. Then the war was used as an excuse to slow down the work towards a sustainable use regulation. We can not replace one pesticide with another. It is a fundamental change and demands substantial investments.”
In conclusion, MEP Bernhuber remarked how, in the end, the final goal is to guarantee food security: “All plant-based products are approved by the EU authorities. What is the alternative when we do not trust our own European institutions?”.